State-Building in Kashmir Under India
In 1953, Sheikh Abdullah, the first prime minister of Jammu and Kashmir, was jailed for being too ‘anti-India’. His deputy Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed then took the reins, and was tasked with securing Kashmir’s contested accession to India. A Fate Written on Matchboxes tells the story of Bakshi’s ten-year client regime and the varying modes of control and governance it deployed. His “politics of life” foregrounded the day-to-day concerns of employment, subsidized rations, free education, and basic services while questions of self-determination were suppressed. To integrate and empower Kashmiris, Bakshi often doled out jobs by writing appointments on matchboxes and slips of paper.
Drawing on bureaucratic documents, propaganda materials, memoirs, literary sources, and oral interviews, Hafsa Kanjwal shows us how Bakshi’s theory of politics and state-building was marked by tension, corruption, and repression. This decade in Kashmir’s post–1947 history entrenched Indian rule. As Jawaharlal Nehru had once told Abdullah, “India would bind Kashmir in golden chains.” However, it also paved the way for local resistance.
Hafsa Kanjwal is assistant professor of history at Lafayette College, US.
‘Bold, refreshing, brilliant … everybody should read it’—Mirza Waheed
‘The book speaks to Hafsa’s generation and to mine too. It is a tribute to those who lived through the agony of seeing their dreams disappear’—Uma Chakravarti
‘A passionate challenge to progressive nationalist constructions of the history of Kashmir’—Harsh Mandar
‘An outstanding historical–anthropological study … elevates scholarship to a new level’—Irfan Ahmed
‘A brilliant work that should be read and discussed widely’—Mridu Rai
‘A truly remarkable achievement … inaugurates a new era of historical research on Kashmir’
‘Kanjwal rectifies India’s hegemonic renditions of Kashmir’s political history’—Ather Zia